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Crack onset strain measurements of a confined layer in tension provide the means for layer toughness estimation. The procedure can be simplified if steady-state conditions prevail starting from the commencement of crack propagation, an assumption frequently employed in energy release rate evaluation. It is demonstrated, by numerical analysis of experimental data, that an estimate of the defect size in the film is needed in order to reliably evaluate its fracture toughness from the crack onset strain. Only if microcracks of sufficient size are present in the brittle layer, the steady-state energy release rate at the crack onset strain can be identified with layer toughness. Otherwise, the toughness estimate obtained by such a procedure is likely to be non-conservative.